Does anyone else read the title of this post and immediately hear Diana Barry's voice in their head? I certainly do. I've been thinking a lot about Anne of Green Gables as I go through the process of writing my own Star Sisters books. I've been trying to figure out what makes Lucy Montgomery's book so magical. What about Anne Shirley made us all fall in love with her? What about Prince Edward Island enchanted us? Why as an adult did I buy a hardback copy of the book for my newborn daughter's bookshelf? I've also got Anne on my mind because I've recently introduced her to my own daughters. My older girls are four and six so, sadly, we're not cuddling up in bed mutually absorbed in Montgomery's words. Even the annotated version that I picked up at the library was too complex for them. But one rainy day, I took a chance and rented the PBS series of Anne of Green Gables that originally aired in 1985 and it was a huge success. My girls were just as absorbed as I was, although I think all my sighs of nostalgia were quite annoying. But really, watch this trailer and try not to sigh (or cry). I dare you!
I'm currently rereading Anne of Green Gables with an adult's eye and what I find so interesting is that Montgomery wrote for a mature, intelligent reader. Her sentences are complex, her descriptions are lengthy and wandering, and her dialogue is so detailed. As a result she created such a sense of place and person that the reader feels like they're entering a different world (the holy grail of compliments for many writers). Yet somehow this book has become known as a children's novel. Do children's authors write like this anymore? Are they even allowed to? By that I mean: would an author that wrote in a similar style get their work published these days? I don't know. My kids aren't reading at this level yet so I don't have any current works to compare. But I do know that one of the first things a book seller said to me when I brought Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding to her store was: "I don't know, that third sentence is kind of long." For the record, that third sentence is 45 words long. Montgomery's first sentence is approximately 150 words long. (Also for the record, they both involved descriptions of a stream. Subconscious emulation on my part, perhaps? Also, also for the record, that bookseller is constantly selling out of my books. Just saying!).
Anyway, I find Anne Shirley so inspiring. She's spunky, dramatic, flawed, smart, and she grows so much over the course her fictional life. I cannot wait for the day when my girls are old enough to read the original Montgomery version. In the meantime, I can only hope that some of my littlest readers out there love Star Sisters just an ounce as much as I loved this series growing up. That would be amazing.
Now, while Anne is clearly the star of the show, Prince Edward Island is a close second. And I thought it would be fun to imagine a modern-day Green Gables. A house that was warm, yet stylish. The kind of place that would enchant a visitor and inspire a young orphan to pinch her arms so many times that they turned black and blue from the elbow up, for so amazed was she at her new home that she could hardly believe it was real.
The kitchen would be warm and tidy, as Marilla would stand for nothing less. A mix between these two:
And the entry way would be welcoming, but with a strong sense of the past:
There would obviously be a library where Anne would spend hours with her beloved books and wild imagination:
And Anne's bedroom would be a combo of fun and cozy. The perfect place for a young girl to look out the window and daydream the day away. A cross between these two:
P.S. This is a great article about how the series has spawned a whole arm of tourism on Prince Edward Island.